The Scarlet Empress, The Iron Lady, and My Cab Driver
Recently, I was wonderfully entertained — and edified — by reading Robert K. Massie’s new biography Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman. The Pulitzer-prize winning author of Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra, and The Romanovs seeks in myriad ways to de-fetishize Catherine by placing her extraordinary rise to power within a full context, providing a nuanced geopolitical history of eighteenth-century Russia along the way.
Larry Summers Eat Your Heart Out: Hollywood Bombshell Hedy Lamarr Invented A Sophisticated Weapons Technology Between Films
Hedy Lamarr has found a notable male ally in Pulitzer-prize winning science writer Richard Rhodes. His delightful, explosive book entitled Hedy’s Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, The Most Beautiful Woman in the World has brought significant, well-deserved recognition to this woman’s remarkable scientific achievements.
Dopplegangers: Mary Shelley and Muriel Spark
Child of Light: A Reassessment of Mary Wollestonecraft Shelley published in 1951 was Muriel Spark’s first book (revised and retitled Mary Shelley: A Biography in 1987). It is an extraordinary portrayal of the world-renowned but much neglected early 19th century novelist, daughter of pioneering intellectuals Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, and wife of the Romantic poet Percy B. Shelley
Eloise Grows Up: The Charmed Life of the Charming Rosamond Bernier
Barely five pages into the book the aptness of Bernier’s title,Some of My Lives, becomes apparent: by the age of twenty she had already lived several lifetimes, and her life had barely begun.
The Forgotten First Wave
Sheila Rowbotham’s unique and revelatory book Dreamers of a New Day: Women Who Invented the Twentieth Century is a seminal work of history profiling an astonishing number of visionary women who incontestably changed life as we know it — then were preeminently forgotten.
“Mother of the People”: Biology as Destiny in the Dystopias of Jane Rogers, P.D. James, and Margaret Atwood
Imagine a world where the human race can no longer reproduce itself due to a virus, a likely product of bioterrorism, that attacks a woman’s brain at the moment of conception, killing her within days. This is the premise of Jane Rogers’s recent novel The Testament of Jesse Lamb.
Mary McCarthy’s The Group, Hilton Als’s “The Women,” and Bridesmaids
The Group, the story of the post-college decade of eight Vassar class of 1933 graduates, was published to abundant praise in 1963 and spent two years on the bestseller list. But it was also damned by Norman Podhoretz as “a trivial lady writer’s novel” and Norman Mailer famously pilloried it in The New York Review of Books.
“God forgive me for my sins — but I can really write”: Irmgard Keun, Anita Loos, and Women Who Dare to Write
These stunning works of literature are searing satires of life under the Third Reich in which fascist ideology is subtly and hilariously subverted, Nazi racism pilloried. (Both books were eventually banned.) The overwhelming power of Keun’s work lies in her surprisingly raw, witty, and resonant feminine voices.
A Wider View of Authorship: Eroticizing the Past
An internationally renowned Irish poet, and a major feminine voice in contemporary English-language poetry, Eavan Boland has devoted much thought, evident throughout her work, to women’s marginalization and female authorship.
Got Milk? The Gender Politics of Pleasure Dairies
It is a testament to Meredith Martin’s talent as both writer and scholar that the pleasure dairy has now become so vivid in my imagination, a part of our political and cultural history, that I feel as if I have always known about the phenomenon, Martin’s book serving as an exquisite reminder.